By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
With new development projects going up, more people moving in, our changing community is a perennially intense discussion topic, whether you’re talking with friends over coffee or commenting here on WSB.
What we don’t talk about nearly as often are the ongoing changes in the West Seattle business community, and how they affect your quality of life.
Right now, local business owners from Admiral to The Junction to Morgan Junction, north to south, east to west, are launching an effort to get the conversation going – and to get you involved – before waves of change sweep away so much that it’s too late to talk, to plan, to collaborate.
This isn’t just about another “shop local” slogan or exhortation. An initial meeting last week involved more than a dozen local business reps, according to Susan Melrose from the West Seattle Junction Association, who convened that first conversation, and with whom we spoke afterward. (Keep in mind, though, this is not a Junction-specific situation – it’s West Seattle-wide.)
The good news is that unlike many neighborhoods in the U.S., West Seattle still has independent businesses with character and variety, many with history, too.
The challenges to their sustainability include ones plaguing independent businesses nationwide, like “showrooming” – treating independent local businesses as “showrooms” where you can go, check out merchandise in person, use their phone to compare pricing, then buy it online from a non-local business to save a few bucks.
As the old saying goes, that may be penny-wise but pound-foolish, in ways beyond your, and their, direct bottom lines.
What local businesses don’t often get credit for is the other ways in which they contribute to the community. You might think first of the jobs they create, not just for employees, but for the business owners themselves, many if not most of them local residents, often raising their families here in West Seattle.
Something not as obvious: Consider, for example, school funding, and the need for PTAs and other groups to raise money for what used to be the basics. So often, that comes through benefit events such as auctions. Most of the items that are auctioned are donated by local businesses, who give generously and frequently to other types of nonprofits as well.
Also: Community events enjoyed around West Seattle every year are supported by sponsorships which again come mostly from local businesses, contributing money and materials.
The initial discussion, according to Melrose, also touched on how independent businesses help give the community its character. It’s not just in the items they sell, but also storefronts’ appearance – remember the recent awning uproar at Easy Street Records?
And in smaller ways – consider the “people” in the phrase “independent local businesspeople.” People you know. People who greet you. People you can talk with.
Melrose says the early conversation is about “connecting the dots” to our quality of life, and the roles local businesses play, as more than providers of items you want and/or need.
Again, it’s hoped this will go beyond the type of “buy local” campaign you’ve seen a million times before. It’s just not that simple. It’s educational as well as inspirational. It’s about community pride, community strength, community sustainability.
So, there’s no ending to this story, really – it’s meant to let you know that this conversation is beginning. And it couldn’t be a better time, since summer is on the way, along with the events that bring us all out to see each other, especially in the business districts (the Morgan Junction Community Festival is June 22nd; West Seattle Summer Fest in The Junction is July 12-14; that’s just two of many). It’s the perfect time to think – and talk – about what independent local businesses mean to you.
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